FOCUS: Gifts from the Heart

Disciplines: Mental Models, Personal Mastery, Systems Thinking

"The greatest gift is a portion of thyself."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson


Here’s an adventure that actually happened to my grandpa when he was a teen-ager, before the invention of the automobile. He called it “A Real Halloween Ghost Story.” He and some friends decided to play a Halloween prank on their favorite teacher. Mr. Barker’s carriage was parked in front of his house, without the horses. The boys rolled it into the teacher’s garage. They hoped he'd think a ghost moved it. But in the end, they were the ones who were startled. Just as they got the carriage parked, a deep voice said, "Thank you, boys." It scared them to death! Turns out Mr. Barker was sitting in the carriage all the time!

I know that story because my grandfather wrote it down, along with a couple of others, and gave it to me one Christmas. It was a gift from his heart and I treasure it.

Christmas is just around the corner. This is the perfect time to plan gifts that cost less and say more: gifts from the heart. These are not the gifts you are likely to see on TV or those that populate the catalogs flooding our homes this time of year.

Sometimes gifts from the heart take a little time and imagination. If you start now, though, one of the joys you'll experience is that gifts from the heart enrich the giver. With a little thought you can come up with perfect gift ideas for the big and little people you really care about. Here are some ideas.

A Gift of Love

  • Write a story from your life – an adventure, something funny, a time you overcame a difficulty and give it to your children or grandchildren.
  • Write a letter or a poem to a loved one, including all the reasons you love him or her.

Gifts of Time

  • Give a coupon for a special activity - a candlelight dinner, a massage, a trip to the zoo. (One of my favorite presents from my son when he was little was a coupon for a 30 minute foot massage.)
  • Plan a monthly lunch date with a seldom-seen relative or friend.
  • Give a coupon for several hours or a weekend of babysitting.
  • Give a coupon to wash someone's car or house windows.
  • Offer a particular talent such as photography, gardening, financial planning, hairstyling or fixing things.

Homemade Gifts

  • Record interviews of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles on audio or videotape; you can ask them to discuss their memories of the recipient, or your family’s history, their favorite jokes, whatever! If you want to, you can even put them on YouTube.
  • Make a book from photos. and many other photo websites make it easy and quite affordable.

Gifts of Experience

  • Offer to teach the recipient a skill you possess, such as canning tomatoes, making salsa, knitting, wood carving, fishing, speaking French or making origami cranes.

Gifts of Charity

  • Donate to a cause in the name of the recipient.
  • Sponsor a child refugee, support a homeless shelter or protect an acre of rainforest.
  • Give a flock of chicks, a goat or part of a pig. Heifer International is one of my favorite unusual gift sites.


Plan some gifts from the heart for people in your life – they work for Hanukkah, birthdays, and Ayyám-i-Há as well as Christmas!


There will be no telegathering this month since I’ll be at the Systems Thinking in Action Conference in Boston. I look forward to seeing some of you there! I am always energized and stimulated by what I learn there so you will be hearing about it.

Reach me: 1-888-907-HOPE (4673)or e-mail I am a personal and executive coach and would be happy to offer you a complimentary coaching session by phone.

Each month FRESH VIEWS focuses on a single topic, relates it to one of the five disciplines of a learning community, and offers a coaching tip and a follow-up telegathering. Please forward it to friends and colleagues. My purpose in writing FRESH VIEWS is to nurture, prod and encourage readers to think and talk about these topics with their families, friends and colleagues. Mine is only one view. Multiple conversations may deliver us to insights only hinted at here. Such a process sustains the vitality of learning relationships, learning families, learning organizations and learning communities.

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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